Wear It Well
The Male Romper Has Come to Claim Your Masculinity. Enjoy It.
A Kickstarter for a company making male romper suits has attracted a lot of money—but also lots of derision. Are men ready for this infantilizing all-in-one?
The male romper suit doesn’t look that bad. It really doesn’t… If you have the slim hips and great legs that a male romper suit would lend itself to, then romp on, boys. Romp till you got nothing left to shake.
If you like carbs and have been neglectful of your side planks, approach the male romper with extreme caution. (Not as much caution as Rick Owens’ penis-showing tunics, but still caution.)
The chorus of howls that greeted ACED Design’s RompHim Kickstarter project, dedicated to crowd-sourcing money for the “RompHim,” suggests that this is a fashion move too far for the bros. And it has nothing to do with slim hips and carbs.
The essence of that outrage is echoed in a lot of the photographs the designers of this “pretty damn comfortable…fashion revolution” show. For around the male romper, even before you get to what the item of clothing looks like, is that silent cry, “THERE IS NOTHING GAY ABOUT THIS.”
In all the derision heaped upon the male romper, every “it looks so damn stupid” conceals the male panic around clothing that doesn’t look stereotypically “manly” enough.
“Is it a romper designed for men? Sure. But it’s also pretty damn comfortable, and it may just be the start of a fashion revolution,” the Kickstarter account notes, a tad defensively: that telling “but.”
Despite all the scorn thrown its way, note that the RompHim Kickstarter has—at the time of writing—raised $150,186, which is considerably more than its $10,000 goal. There are still 27 days to go to back the project. A lot of men or women clearly like the idea of a male romper, even while making delicious fun of it.
Rather like any item of male clothing that doesn’t fall within standard expectations of what a male item of clothing should look like, the first thing that must be sold is masculinity, as the RompHim Instagram account sells hard.
Hence, the RompHim is being shown worn by a group of guys just being regular guys, goofing around and drinking, and making boorish faces. This is to show how normal it is for those same men to be wearing something more familiarly seen on a woman or baby.
One thing we learn early on in investigating this item of clothing is that there is a zipper for peeing. This is important, because if there is something all classifications of genders can agree on, it’s when you gotta go, you gotta go, and to be wearing an item of clothing in the name of fashion that actively, in its design, prevents you from urinating with ease is a no-no. It can be the coolest thing to wear on the planet, but an embarrassing wet patch is an embarrassing wet patch.
Without knowing this, men approaching the male romper would have had the same thought as women approaching the female romper: How the hell am I going to get out of that in a hurry?
Well, guys, there’s a zipper, you’re OK.
This just leaves the shape and design of the rompers. Well, you need to be fit and worked out, unless you want to hit the streets looking like Elmer Fudd on a hipster kick.
ACED Design urges you to romper like you just don’t care. You will “turn heads and break hearts” wearing one of these things. Concerts, beaches, rooftops, swimming pools, leisurely strolls, bar patios are all imagined locales for male romper-wearing.
For men worried about what a male romper includes, and what it does not, it has: a front shirt pocket, adjustable waist, zippered back pocket, zipper fly, and deep front pockets. Phew.
All sizes can wear them, we are assured. “We promise that once you put it on, you won’t wanna take this thing off,” ACED claims.
Hmm, well, that depends. If you’re on a hot date, trying to get out of this thing might be a bit of a passion-killing performance. You also, not around the ironic fashion kids of music festivals, run the risk of looking like an adult baby, which is a fetish of its own and typically kept behind closed doors.
Don’t be surprised if, for example, when queueing at Subway for your 6-inch Spicy Italian wearing a patterned romper, a deadpan server says, “You want a pacifier with that, buddy?”
But hey, if you’ve invested in a romper and decided to go out in public in it, you will, it follows, be totally impervious to public ridicule and scorn.
Some critics have noted that Sean Connery wore one in a ’60s Bond film, and Cam Newton wore one to Coachella. Sure, there is a lineage here, but the romper needs to go from uniquely worn and rarely sighted to “I slipped this on to pop down to the mall.”
Others have noted that the romper is an extension of the onesie and jumpsuit. Like the onesie, the romper is infantilizing. If you’ve had a terrible commute, if your day at work sucked, what better than to retreat to the couch in an item of clothing that encases you?
The onesie and the romper are security blankets made fashion: the perfect item of clothing for stressful times.
The added spirit of the jumpsuit gives the romper at least a trace of masculinity. The jumpsuit for men has become indivisible from the flying suit, as worn by Tom Cruise and co. in Top Gun, which—while being one of the gayest-vibed films ever made—made it butch to wander around in all-in-one military gear.
The male romper is so cool and unique that it brings its own social pressures. As the Kickstarter page shows, it seems you rarely can be at rest in a romper. You must always be drinking, always playing, always carrying a girl aloft in your shoulders (you’re heterosexual!), or just horsing around with your pals (in a totally heterosexual way!).
The test for the romper will be if it can leave all this self-conscious jokery behind and be worn as conventionally and naturally as a pair of jeans. Will men begin wearing them for quiet afternoons at the pub, or going to the cinema? Or going—most critically—on a date?
The challenge facing any wannabe fashion staple, after the first flush of public outrage that guarantees publicity, is whether it can then insert itself into a public’s general clothing routine.
To truly succeed, the male romper needs to do two opposing things: encourage men to really enjoy and indulge the performance of fashion, while also encouraging them to be secure enough in themselves to do so. The male romper looks like silly fun, for sure. It is also a fashionable challenge to masculinity.